A few nights ago, my sister and I went for a drive. Generally, we sit at my mom’s house every night and watch Netflix, but that night the internet was down, so we just drove. I thought it would just be something to do, to save us from having to sit around and stare at the wall. This will probably sound rather absurd, but it was much more than that; it was powerful, and rather cathartic.
I have never cared for driving, most of the time I pretty much hate it, in fact. I know there are a lot of people who like to drive, just for the enjoyment of it. Not me, I drive to get where I’m going and that’s it. I like riding in the car a little better. I suppose this is because it’s a bit less stressful, since I’m not the one responsible if anything happens. But it’s still not something I would generally choose to do. I find being struck in a car to be uncomfortable, boring and overall fairly annoying.
That being said, there have been times in my life when everything just felt overwhelming and I didn’t know what else to do. So, I just got in my car and drove. Even knowing that I was going to have to go right back, there is still sometimes a sense of relief when you just drive away from everything. I find it especially powerful to do this at night. There is something about the empty roads, and the cool air coming in the windows, and the look of the headlights on the pavement, that makes the whole world seem better, less chaotic. To be honest, these little excursions were probably not a very good idea, since most of the time I was not in a particularly logical state of mind when they happened. And to be really honest, I’m not the best driver, and probably shouldn’t drive any more than I have to anyway.
I haven’t done that for years and, ever since Covid happened, I’ve barely gone anywhere at all. But, the other night, my sister and I were sitting on the porch at my mom’s house, trying to decide what we were going to do with ourselves with no internet, and I suggested we go for a drive. Lately, it’s been quite hot and humid here, even after the sun has gone down, but that night it wasn’t. It was cool, that crisp, refreshing, energizing kind of cool, and there was just a slight breeze. The idea of staying in the house when it felt like that outside seemed crazy.
So, we got in her car and she took us out onto all the little back roads that lead into nowhere. It was around eleven-thirty when we left, and there were few other cars on the road. The sky was clear and the moon was bright, for the first time in days. We didn’t speak much, we didn’t need to; we just turned some music on and sang aloud. It felt both peaceful and energizing.
It’s kind of funny, for someone who hates driving, I actually write about it a lot. Somehow, I always manage to find my characters on the road for long periods of time, especially at night. This experience helped me remember why. It’s beautiful. The dark and the night air seems to open up your soul and take your mind to places it doesn’t usually go. I was flooded with memories of other drives, on other nights, in other years.
Some of these memories were specific to the roads we were travelling, but mostly they were just about the feeling. That free, open, just slightly frightening, feeling of being on the road in the middle of the night. I think it’s because, at least in my case, it’s only important things, or exciting things that have caused me to be out late. I’ve never really had much of a social life, so I’m not usually out at night, aside from when I was working midnight shift (but then, many of those memories are pretty intense as well.)
Oddly, many of the thoughts that came to me the most strongly were of coming home. Coming home from the road-trip we took years ago, coming home from the police academy (after that disastrous experience), coming home from the airport after my trip to LA. Feeling that again made me actually not hate being here, which is a rare thing for me. I’ve actually felt a little better about life in general for the last several days, and I think this is why.
So, if you’re feeling stir crazy, or frustrated, from all of this isolation, try taking a midnight drive. Maybe it will help you as much as it helped me.
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